At this time of year, every year, NZSki boss James Coddington becomes Queenstown’s unofficial weatherman.
Locals approach Coddington on the street daily, asking him when the next big snowfall is going to hit and how good the upcoming winter will be.
But Coddington doesn’t for a second think he’s a weather expert.
“I won’t be going after [One News weatherman] Jim Hickey’s job any time soon,” he says.
“The weather is front of mind for everyone at the moment. People want to know what the weather’s doing and they see what you do in town as someone who should know about the weather. But unfortunately weather isn’t an exact science.”
As Winter Festival approaches, Coddington’s snowfall predictions get called upon even more – especially relating to NZSki’s six on-mountain events during the 10-day party programme.
Throughout the festival, Coronet Peak hosts the popular Mountain Bikes On Snow race on June 23, Skin to the Summit (June 24), the famous Dog Derby (June 28), the Spin It Live music gig (June 29) and the crowd-pulling Mountain Mayhem series which includes a suitcase race down the mountain, dash for cash and a snow dig (June 30).
Queenstown’s The Remarkables ski field hosts the highly-anticipated Slopestyle Invitational event on July 1.
Hence the weather anxiety – snow conditions can seriously affect the events like last year when all of the activities were postponed for later days.
Every activity has a contingency plan, Coddington says.
“We’re pretty nimble on our feet and can come up with other options if snow conditions and weather conditions dictate otherwise. We have done in the past and we’re very focused on ensuring that we provide the best conditions and best product we can at Winter Festival.”
Local meteorologist David Crow predicts this winter will be an average one, without the massive dumps of 2011 but consistently cold throughout with less rain.
“We’re between the El Nino and La Nina weather patterns, which is known as a natural phase. The first part of winter may be a little bit cooler than normal.”
As for Winter Festival’s outlook, Crow has good news – he believes Coronet Peak will open on its scheduled date of June 9, thanks to cooler temperatures enabling snow making.
Coronet Peak staff have been busy making snow this week and had 5cm of fresh snow on Sunday night. The Remarkables crew has also been making snow.
Coddington: “We’re always hopeful that the winter will provide us with enough natural snow to deliver a fantastic product and to complement our snowmaking, but you don’t know.
“What’s it going to do for Winter Festival? We hope there’s going to be an abundance of snow for both visitors and locals to have a fantastic time in.”